News in Brief: Senate Unveils Tax Bill

The ten-year price of the Senate’s broad bill to extend Bush-era tax cuts is expected to be $858 billion, the first step in two years toward dealing with the cuts. The current deal would extend current tax breaks for all income levels, including individuals earning up to $250,000. With a test vote scheduled for Monday, the bill is expected to pass with support from all Senate Republicans and some Democrats, along with an extension of expiring subsidies for alternative-energy sources. In the House, however, Democrats chanted “Just Say No” to the tax cuts before passing a nonbinding resolution saying the agreement would not be considered in the House until it was amended, reported the Wall Street Journal. The proposed package, to be voted on Monday, will include a 13-month extension of benefits for the long-term unemployed, but Democracy Now! noted that under the bill the nation’s lowest-paid workers are the only group that will see their taxes rise.

Senate Republicans Block Vote on 9/11 Health Bill

A vote on a bill that would pay health care costs for 9/11 rescue workers and residents of New York City who were affected by the toxic smoke and debris around the site of the buildings has been blocked by Senate Republicans, reported Washington Monthly. The legislation had already been approved by the House in September and was fully financed by closing a tax loophole for American companies with headquarters at P.O. boxes in the Caymans, but was three votes shy of overcoming a Republican filibuster in the Senate.

Julian Assange Should Be Awarded Nobel Peace Prize, Suggests Russia; UN High Commissioner Concerned Over WikiLeaks Targeting

In an unexpected show of support for WikiLeaks, the Kremlin suggested that Julian Assange should be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, and urged non-governmental organizations to seriously consider nominating Assange. Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin’s initial response to the information leaked in the cable was that calling him “Batman” and President Dmitry Medvedev “Robin” was “arrogant” and “unethical,” reported the Guardian UK.

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay expressed concern over reports that private companies, including banks, credit card companies and Internet service providers have closed down credit line donations to WikiLeaks, reported Democracy Now! “Taken as a whole, they could be interpreted as an attempt to center the publication of information, thus potentially violating WikiLeaks’ right to freedom of expression,” said Pillay.

Military Bars Removal Media Devices to Stem Leaks

In an attempt to prevent additional leaks, the US military has ordered troops to stop using CDs, DVDs, thumb drives and any other forms of removable media at the risk of court-martialing, reported Wired.

Attorney General Eric Holder on Terrorism Stings: FBI Doesn’t Entrap People

Following the arrest this week of a 21-year-old Baltimore man who allegedly tried to set off a fake car bomb outside of a military recruitment center, Attorney General Eric Holder defended the federal government’s undercover operations to prevent terrorist plots. The FBI has been facing a barrage of criticism from Muslim organizations for their infiltration of mosques and from other critics that have accused them of entrapment, reported Talking Points Memo. One FBI informant attempting to infiltrate a mosque in California was so aggressive that the community got a restraining order against him. “We are very mindful of the rights that people have,” said Holder. “We do not engage in tactics that entrap people or make them do things that they are otherwise not disposed to do.”

Afghan Women Still Suffer Horrendous Abuse, Says United Nations Report

A major UN report highlights that, despite improvements in women’s rights in Afghanistan, the country is still rife with forced marriages, ‘honor’ killings, the giving away of infant girls to future husbands to settle disputes and desperate women resorting to self-immolation, reported the Guardian UK. The report also noted that despite efforts to toughen laws to protect women, the government does little to combat violence against women, and according to figures quotes in the report, 57 percent of Afghan marriages have one partner that is younger than 16.